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Houston. We have landed!!!

Day Five

It was a short day to get us to our destination, but not uneventful. With less distance to cover, we allowed ourselves some of our usual stop-and-go-or-even-turn-around-and-go-back travel. In one town, while obeying a stop sign before a turn, we noticed a small garden center with a wagon displaying a collection of some blooming shrub in 2 gallon containers that we didn’t recognize. So you know we stopped to see what it was.

The plants had no tags, but the proprietor came out to see if I would buy any and told me they were called the Pride of Barbados, and were the floral symbol of that island nation, but he had no idea what the botanical name for the plant was. So after assuring him that I could not grow them where I lived – he understood when I told him I could raise neither tomatoes nor okra due to lack of sun and heat at night, he told me of a property a couple of blocks away that had mature specimens of this plant in their landscape.

This is that plant that caused us to stop.

plant: Pride of Barbados

It looks like it could be an acacia, but it isn’t

It is actually is a member of the pea family (like the acacia as well as our beastly broom) that COULD be grown in our climate as a perennial instead of an evergreen shrub. Botanically it is Caesalpinia pulcherrima, and has many common names such as peacock flower, Mexican Bird-of-Paradise and Dwarf Poinciana. There are nasty thorns on the stems, branches and petioles, which may be why it is also called Barbados Flowerfence.

We are NOT bringing one home.

I took this next picture because this plant is showing up in both untended roadsides as well as fine landscapes here.

opuntia cactus

Prickly pears are found in almost all areas of Texas

Actually, they will winter over in the PNW if they can be given very good drainage. There are several collectors who belong to the Washington Native Plant Society from the drier Wenatchee area who grow many species of Opuntia.

We arrived in Houston in late afternoon and are now hard at the process of preparing for the Celebration. It has not been all work and no play, though. I will fill you in on it as I have time.

A New Day, a New Geography Lesson

Today, you must be wondering where I have been since I got to Houston. The answer is in Busyville! We’ve hardly stopped to eat and sleep as Arden is moving off ahead and we are just trying to keep up! Worlds of work have gotten done, but that doesn’t finish my travel narrative, and I want to do that before I embark on the Houston Story.

Fourth Day

We left Albuquerque and found that we had also left the mountains behind in the night and were now crossing vast stretches of land occupied by mesquite, pinyon pine and sagebrush. The sky was very blue and the sun very bright – everything they tell you to expect in “the Land of Enchantment” that is New Mexico.

We were so enchanted and busy listening to our audiobook, Dawn on a Distant Shore, by Sara Donati, that we didn’t take any more pictures until we were in Texas.

We had made the decision soon after leaving our motel that morning, that we were going to change our route so that we would miss the Ft. Worth/Dallas urban area. So, we left New Mexico at Clovis (I shall have to research the link between this town’s name and the name given to the paleontological “Clovis Man”).

In that area of Texas, the major crop seems to be windfarms. We went for miles seeing nothing on the south side of the highway but mesas covered with the tall, ghostly singularities that the windmills are – not close enough to be squadrons and not distant enough to be sentries in a vast, futuristic army. If this blog could support a panorama, I’d have a doozy to go here, but, instead will only offer this one shot.

windmills lining the mesas

The sheer numbers of these windmills boggles my mind!

You would think that, with all these windmills producing power, that Texas would be energy independent by now. These installations are showing up in more and more areas that we travel. I think the idea must finally be catching on.

Soon after entering Texas, we had another blessing by rainbow. A rain squall to the east of us sent down this one to wish us well on our journey:

rainbow

What a welcome!

And, no, that’s not a flying monkey in the sky near the right edge of the picture, that’s a bug on the windshield. Boy! Silvy sure needs a bath when we get to Houston.

We had rain off and on for most of the day. It was another reminder of the differences between here and home.  A Texas rain squall is short and heavy, while one in Washington is slow and drizzly. The clouds are often very beautiful on their own and worth watching as much as is the terrain we passed through.

We did stop once to photograph a plant that we were seeing everywhere, but couldn’t identify from the car. One stop was enough to show us that it was the Euphorbia commonly called Snow On the Mountain. It is often used in cut flower arrangements, but is one of those plants that can become a pest because it seeds itself very prolifically. Seems to have done that in West Texas.

This is what it looks like:

Euphorbia marginata

As prolific here as yarrow is in other places

We wended our way into Lubbock for the night and sought out another Golden Corral for dinner. We had taken a false sense of security from the excellent one in Orem, UT, and had to remind ourselves that each one was run be different people, and that the one we tried in Lubbock, would not be on our “visit again” list.

One more day to go! We should be in Houston by tomorrow night!

Three states in the same afternoon

Well, Utah has been amazing, but there’s more –

after leaving Price, we spent the rest of our Utah journey passing miles of orange barrels marking out alternate lanes in what appeared to be a massive resurfacing project. At least the sightseeing was great. Notice, I didn’t say “spectacular,” because, according to the maps, we left the “scenic” part of Highway 6 behind at Price and the going ahead would just be ordinary. Well, here is ordinary by Utah standards –

hole in the rock house ad painted on rocks

If we’d been “real tourists” we’d a stopped.

If you look hard you’ll see the sign and arrow painted on the rocks, just above, and pointing toward, the oncoming vehicle that can be seen far in the distance. It is advertising a house made in the rocks – 12 rooms worth and a gift shop and a tour and a… tourist can drop a few bucks here, but not us, a picture is all we got – and it was free. As you can see, there’s another, like us, doing the same on the shoulder ahead.

We negotiated the section of I-70 into Green River quickly and got no photos, even though this stretch IS labeled as a scenic route, because stopping on an Interstate is so problematic, unless you have car trouble.

At Brendel, UT,  we left the Interstate again and started another “non” scenic section near Arches National Park and Moab, UT, where I had taken a bunch of Girl Scouts rafting on the Green River in 1980. Along this route, we caught this shot:

sandstone arch

We didn’t have to go into the National Park to see one!

Then, we slid into Colorado for a short dash through Cortez and the Ute reservation where they get to see these sights every day –

chimney rock formation

I think I’ve seen this one in a commercial before. It looks a lot better “plain.”

And this one looks like Holland American gone aground –

interesting ship-shaped butte

It’s a shame this one is so close to the mother-of-all-formations in this area and doesn’t really get its due.

That formation, Shiprock, appears on the horizon long before you get to the New Mexico border. It dominates the area. It, and the place names on the map, as well as the signs around us – Farmington, Window Rock,  Gallup, Yah-Ta-Hey, all speak to me of my beloved Tony Hillerman mysteries. It’s wonderful to see the area in person, though his descriptions are so good that it looks very familiar.

shiprock formation

Iconic, to say the least!

As you can see, the sun was going down. We did the last part of the day’s journey  seeing only signs and lights. Our on-ramp to the section of I-25 we needed to take into Albuquerque was closed, but we had no trouble finding our bed for the night. It was sending a strong beacon by this time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Way to Price, 2nd helping

Well, the trip was getting decidedly interesting, but there was much more in store. We reached a pull-over with a vista and several monuments and took the opportunity to stop, get out and stretch our legs. Of course, I had the camera around my neck, so pictures happened here too.

The spot to stop was chosen because we wanted to look at some roadside flowers we had been seeing and they were here in abundance. We didn’t know them, but a picture is the first step to identification:

unknown wild plant

Do you recognize this plant? We don’t and we would like to know more about it.

So far, no amount of web search has turned up any information. I shall have to put off further search to another time.

When we managed to look around at what else was there, we found it to be very interesting, historically. The site of the viewing area was dedicated to the coal industry in Utah. Several of the monuments were tributes to the lives lost in various mine disasters which brought back memories of all the same issues in Kentucky when I lived there. At the lowest point in the surrounding area is a coal-fired power plant, barely showing, and trying to make its environmentally awful smoke plume (behind the outside end of the mega road cut in the next picture) look innocuous.

coal-fired plant

95% of the power in Utah is generated by coal. A very dirty business indeed.

The trucks coming through the road cut below show you the hole the Utah Dept. of Transportation had to make in that mountain to accommodate our route. The smoke from the power plant is barely visible over it on the extreme left. In front, the pile of totaled road barrels lying in the sun like an elephant graveyard, made me wonder, until we had completed the Utah leg of our journey and passed the thousands more of them marking the lanes of the massive resurfacing job that was going on. If these few are all that have perished, they are doing very well indeed.

ruined highway marker barrels

Where old highway work marker barrels go when they die – plus another fantastic road cut.

Meanwhile, back to the trip – a short way further and we had to stop to marvel at this rest area that had its amenities powered by solar energy:

solar collectors for rest area

I would have thought no power lines would be needed to mar the view

As we move on down the road, I’m aware that it is only just past noon and it seems that we have seen the wonders of the world already. What more can there be?

Well…

rock layers exposed

dramatic exposure of hard and soft layers that look as if someone was sculpting an ante-bellum skirt

and…

red rock outcrops

It’s hard to believe wind and rain did this instead of some inspired terracotta artist.

There was much more, too, before we got to Price, but even the Internet has limits! More on special request – or maybe I should put the lot into my Flickr account. If I do y’all will be the first to know.

Onward…

Finally, we make it to Price, UT, halfway between Orem and our crossing into a corner of Colorado on the way to our bed-for-the-night in Albuquerque. I look at my watch and am astounded that it’s only 2:30 p.m. on our third day! But the wonders had not ceased, yet. On the outskirts of Price, I spotted this mountain (how could I not!) and saw that it was a visual definition of what the “tree line” is.

mountain exhibiting the concept of tree line

Such a clear example of the concept of tree line – too cold, dry and steep up there, even for trees!

But, then I looked up and behold!

dramatic cloud over the mountain

Here was the real drama – a decorator cloud!

 

Stay tuned for “the rest of the story” to see what we saw before we got to Albuquerque.

 

 

Here We Are Already!

It’s Friday by the calendar and Central Daylight Time by my watch, and the tale of the trip now has to be written as history since we have arrived in Houston.

But I promised a travel blog, so here’s how the trip went along.

Day three

We left Orem about mid-morning and left the interstate for a shortcut to Albuquerque that looked like it might be more interesting. I’ll say! I’d recommend that route to anyone.

Very soon we stopped to marvel at the panorama of distance and scale where the railroad came through the nearest mountain by way of a pair of tunnels (I guess there are two so trains can go both ways at once, maybe) and curved off around the next mountain and out of sight. The scene was so monumental that I could only capture a part of it which turns out to not have any of the train OR its tracks in evidence. I’m constantly amazed at how much more the eye can comprehend than a camera can capture without specialized equipment. Anyway, there were very impressive distances involved.

Utah vista

Utah vista

As we drove on toward Price, Utah, we saw geological marvels at nearly every milepost. These pictures are of only a few.

big boulders

boulders as big as houses

sedimentary stripes

sedimentary stripes, so bright they look like they were painted on.

very steep slope with trees

A rocky slope so steep you could not walk out to one of those trees unless you had pitons on your shoes.

car pass

Imagine how much rock they had to remove to make this road cut!

I have a closeup shot of the bluff on the left side of this pass that shows a flag planted at the top, but I took it out to save room for other pictures like the three it takes to tell you about the cliff with the interesting “pulpit” at its near end.

north side of cliff

approaching pulpit-shaped cliff

As we passed, it turned out to not be what we expected. Look for yourself:

narrow rock spire

from here it appears to be a needle-like spire

And, finally, it shows it is a wall-like formation instead of a cliff.

rock wall not cliff

A lesson that things are not always as you think they are when you can see only one side

All of this and we were not yet to Price. In fact, it was still only a little after 11 a.m. MDT.

However, it is now 10:30 p.m. CDT and I am going to bed to write more tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

Another Day, Another Day

This morning (Monday), day two of our trip, we opted to skip the $2.00 off coupons for breakfast in the motel restaurant and get on the road. We had decided to try and cross Idaho without spending money, if possible (a personal choice), so we stopped for breakfast at a truck stop near the border, bought $10 worth of gas (which didn’t quite replace what we had used the day before), but the gauge looked good, so we set out. We made potty stops as needed and enjoyed the scenery and sunny weather (I find that I did not take any pictures this day) until we realized that the fuel might NOT make it all the way to Utah. The dash display in the car (our new Prius V, bought just a few weeks before the start of this excursion) shows the miles remaining on the current fuel supply. It also shows lots of information on how efficiently it is being driven, so Margaret, using that information,  turned off the cruise control and fell in behind big trucks to get a lift from their wake, and and we made it! We only bought a cup of coffee and a some candy in Idaho.

We made our dinner stop at a Golden Corral in Orem, Utah tonight – a particular favorite of ours. The yeast rolls were our dessert!

Now we are tucking in at the local La Quinta Inn. I was pleased to see that OLOC had, indeed organized some change in this motel chain. When we contracted to have our regional gathering in their Tacoma inn in 2011, we had convinced them to make note of disabled guests who would need assistance in case of an emergency, especially if their room was not on the ground floor and, tonight, I was asked, at sign in, if we needed to be on the list for assistance in case of emergency.

That’s all for Monday, and though I’ll still be behind by the time I tell you about Tuesday, I’ll get caught up eventually and there WILL be pictures.

 

Bang! We’re off!

Big sigh…. ! Technology is not my friend right now. I’ve got the pictures intended  for this blog on the cell phone and iPad. That transfer is simple with the help of bluetooth, but our laptop seems to have become a dinosaur. It is not sufficiently upgradable  to use the app that I need in order to use the same transfer path here. I’ve had to resort to emailing them to myself, but the email had been spotty at our wifi-enabled motels. Tonight, I managed to correct part of that problem by rebooting said laptop, but the expected emails haven’t arrived yet. Bother!

So, the blog posts get illustrated after the fact.

The first entries are late anyway because of that spotty connection problem I mentioned above. We’ve never had this much trouble before so I don’t know what to think.

Anyway, let the fun begin –

Margaret inspecting the load.

All in. Time to go.

Sunday, September 15    And… we’re off! – at last. We aimed for between noon and one and pulled out of our driveway at 12:59. We had to go north to pick up audio equipment from Deirdre in south Seattle before we could start southeast. So… Since the route took us past Issaquah, and we hadn’t eaten lunch, we hooked up with Jolly Sue and Casey and had sandwiches and the largest root beer float I have ever seen at the XXX Root Beer stand – it had to have measured a quart or more! Not a wise move before setting out to drive a great distance. Come for a visit and we’ll take you all the way to Issaquah to have one. The decor alone would be worth the trip.

my giant root beer float

I dared drink this just before embarking on a six hour drive!

Our destination for the first leg of the journey was going to be Ontario, OR, the last stop before entering Idaho, but we were thwarted by heavy thunderstorms along the last third of I-82 in Washington that slowed us down, and a spectacular accident on the Columbia River bridge we had to cross. A very large box truck had somehow gotten lodged on top of the railing wall on the left side of the fast lane, requiring all traffic to squeeze by in the fraction of the slow lane the police could keep open while recovery efforts were going on.

stuck truck and police car at the bridge

the shot captured just one of the bubblegum lights on the police car

Long story somewhat shortened – we had to get a bed in Baker City, OR in order to get in one before midnight. However, the Best Western there is five buildings laid out in a pattern very hard to understand in the dark. It became a serious search that had me hopping in and out of the car at each one trying to find our room. When we were finally settled, it was, at least, a good bed – a good end to the day. We have a photo of the rainbow that blessed us as we were leaving Washington, between thunderstorms. I’ll put it here when I can.

rainbow over highway in Washington

It felt like a blessing coming between two terrific rainstorms as it did.

 

 

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